A while ago, I had a meeting with a fellow business owner who I was planning to use on a project I was developing. This person had a high degree of expertise in the area and was aware that I do not.
A meeting was set-up to begin exploration of a working arrangement.
On both sides the set-up was far too casual. I didn’t make it clear exactly what I wanted from the meeting and nor did the other party ask any questions prior to us getting together.
The result was a clumsy meeting that only really got started when our time ran out. Neither of us had set the scene for an effective meeting.
Hardly best practices for those of us who want to love our work!
I suspect my potential supplier left feeling that his time hadn’t been utilised well, and I was certainly left feeling less than confident in his ability to manage the project I had in mind.
I couldn’t help but think, ‘Hey, if this person can’t manage an effective meeting, what chance does the project stand?’
Harsh? Maybe so, but isn’t it likely our prospective clients think like this? In the pursuit of new business and new opportunities we absolutely must take control and manage effective meetings.
Neither of us had taken responsibility for the meeting and the result was an all round waste of time.
In this meeting scenario it comes down to how we set the scene.
Here are some basic set-up tips for an effective meeting:
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1. Don’t go in without outcomes
Never go to a meeting where the desired outcomes are not clearly understood by all involved. This includes the meetings you call and the ones you are required to attend.
2. Have a meeting with yourself first
Plan the meeting in advance. Think about what you want to say and what you need to learn. Give yourself a basis upon which to measure the success of each encounter as this will help you better prepare for the next.
3. Remember you are in charge of your time
Consider every meeting to be YOUR meeting. Sitting quietly while a meeting drifts out of control does no-one any favours. If you’re looking bored and disconnected, you’ll be seen as being boring and disconnected. Not a good marketing position!
4. Suggest options
Don’t be afraid to challenge what is put in front of you. If a phone call, rather than a face-to-face meeting would suffice – suggest it. If more needs to progress before you’ll give up your time – say it.
At the close of meetings, summarise what’s happened and discuss follow-ups and next actions. Don’t leave with anything unsaid. Loose ends will bite you.
6. Confirm and confirm again
Always confirm appointments the day before. Leave nothing to chance. The roads, railways and airways are full of miserable business owners returning to base after a futile non-encounter.
Once clients see that you respect your time, they will respect it also. We shouldn’t confuse generosity with an absence of boundaries.
And remember, the real risk is that clients and customers will read inefficiencies in one area as a sign of inefficiency in all areas.
Would you happily take skydiving lessons from someone who’s missing a shoelace?